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Metaphors create powerful pictures. One metaphor can convey a lifetime of experience or a head full of logic. In one of my client workshops, a sales rep presented an analogy between relating data files  to socks. Black dress socks that are worn to the office every day represent data files needed daily; dress socks go in the top drawer for easy access, just as data files that you retrieve often must be easy to access. White athletic socks worn for exercising only on the weekends represent data files that you need only monthly or quarterly; these white socks are stored in the middle bureau drawer for limited access, just like data files you don’t need often. The rep’s green plaid socks, worn only when Aunt Martha comes to visit, represent the data files needed only once a year. Those plaid socks are stored in the bottom bureau drawer for infrequent access, just like files you may never need again. His audience immediately understood his explanation about quick access to storage space.

We occasionally explain the various fee arrangements for our licensing of training programs to customers with this analogy: “As you determine which is the best fee arrangement for your organization, consider it like a mortgage.” You can buy a house by paying all cash up front, or you can pay for it over time with interest. With our licensing fee, you can pay for the entire course and all master copies up front, or you can pay participant by participant over time. The last arrangement will cost you more over time, but you will have your money free to use for other things as you go along. Customers understand the concept: they can make an outright purchase, or they can take out a mortgage. Metaphors clarify what would take hours to explain in detail.

Dianna Booher, an expert in executive communications, is the author of 46 books. Her work has been translated into 23 languages. Her latest books include Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, andAct Like a Leader and Communicate with Confidence, Revised and Expanded Edition. As CEO of BooherConsultants and as a high-caliber keynote speaker, Dianna and her staff travel worldwide to deliver focused speeches and training to address specific communication challenges and increase effectiveness in writing skills, presentation skills, interpersonal communication, and organizational communication. 1-800-342-6621

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